The influence of Reuben Paterson’s Maori heritage is particularly strong in this opulent work, which focuses on a particular kowhaiwhai (pattern), named Puhoro, used in thigh tattoos for both men and women. This kowhaiwhai describes the lines in a canoe’s wake and also contains the genealogical knowledge of a family, represented as each curved end in the design. Paterson’s combination of customary incised pattern and tattoo design with modern materials reinvigorates and updates Maori expression. His incorporation of formal painting properties – such as sharp line, ornate detail and bilateral symmetry – with specially commissioned coloured glitter elicits curiosity and joy.
This work is currently on display on Level 3 at National Gallery of Victoria International.